What is an evangelical? John Stott once said, “An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian.” Justin Taylor summarizes a lengthier answer John Stott gave to this question in a lecture many years ago:
1. The Claim of Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is not a novelty, and it is not a deviation. It is neither neither new nor odd.
2. The Distinctives of Evangelicalism
At the center of the evangelical faith lies the Bible as our authority and the cross as our salvation.
By what authority do we believe what we believe?
* Catholics emphasize the church, the magisterium and the role of tradition.
* Liberals emphasize reason, conscience, and experience
* Evangelicals recognize tradition and reason, but as subordinate authorities to the only supreme authority, Scripture
How can I, a lost and guilty sinner, stand before a just and holy God?
* Catholics emphasize the priesthood and the sacraments as necessary to meditate salvation between God and us
* Liberals emphasize good works, individual and social righteousness, as at least contributing to our salvation
* Evangelicals affirm ministry, sacraments, and good works, but our focus is on the cross–what God has done in Christ for us
We affirm two unpopular but important words: inerrancy (Scripture in the original is without error in all that it affirms when interpreted correctly) and substitution (Christ died not only on our behalf but in our place, with the result that substitution is the very essence of atonement (not just a theory among many)
3. The Concern of Evangelicalism
As evangelicals we desire to bear witness to the unique glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Insisting on our distinctives in not on account of having a sinful party spirit, or because we are arrogant, angular, awkward, uncooperative, obstinate by temperament. No, it’s precisely because we are determined to proclaim and defend the unique glory of Jesus Christ.
We believe God has spoken fully and finally in Jesus Christ.
We believe God has acted fully and finally in Jesus Christ, especially in the finished work of the cross.
In Christ we have God’s last word to the world (revelation), and God’s last deed for the world (redemption). God’s word and work in and through Jesus Christ are hapax—final and finished once and for all and forever. Hapax (once for all and forever) in Christ is the essence of evangelicalism.
4. The Essence of Evangelicalism
The essence of evangelicalism is humility.
God’s revelation is necessary because we could not know God in any other way; God’s redemption is necessary because we could not achieve it by ourselves, or even contribute to it.
Without revelation we would be lost in our ignorance; without redemption we would be lost in our guilt.
Evangelicalism denies self-salvation and magnifies the grace of God.
If we are to commend evangelicalism, nothing greater is needed than humility.